Bloomberg Expected To Unveil Plan To Change Bilingual Education
JUNE 12TH, 2003
City Hall has been keeping a tight lid on plans
for reforming bilingual education in city schools, but NY1’s Jennifer Rainville
learned some exclusive details and filed the following report:
After months of debate, sources tell NY1 Friday a final plan to change bilingual
education has landed on Mayor Michael Bloomberg's desk, and he is
expected to unveil it soon. However, sources caution schools will not see
drastic changes in this politically sensitive area – at least not for some time.
When fully implemented, it will mark a significant departure from the past.
Sources said the plan favors so-called dual language classes, in which students
learn basic course work in both Spanish and English. Right now, only about 1,000
children are in such programs in the city, while 75,000 are in programs where
they're taught primarily in their native languages.
But on the record, city officials are making just one thing clear: these changes
will not be ready for the fall.
“We never said we'd have it rolled out for September implementation,” said
Deputy Mayor Dennis Walcott. “We've taken on a lot already as far as the overall
school structure of the Department of Education and the new systems we're
putting into place.”
The mayor's standing has fallen among Latino voters, who helped put him in
office. And pressure has been mounting among Latino leaders, who want to know
the administration isn’t abandoning bilingual education for English-only
But Walcott insists it's not political, and that school officials – not City
Hall – will determine how the plan is phased in.
“I think the question becomes, ‘What's feasible,” Walcott said. “And that's up
to the staff at the Department of Education."
If it indeed turns out to be a dual language program, it could find a supporter
in potential mayoral challenger Fernando Ferrer.
“Bilingual maintenance programs, and above all dual language bilingual programs,
succeed brilliantly,” Ferrer said.
Dual language also wins the support of critics of bilingual programs, like
former mayoral candidate Herman Badillo.
“The program of bilingual education as it exists now has to be reformed, because
there are many areas of the city, for example, in Brooklyn, where bilingual
education has become monolingual education,” Badillo said.
Some education watchdogs praise the idea of dual language programs but worry
they'll only end up being for those who speak Spanish, leaving other groups out.
“We're really eager to find out about the new program,” said Jill Chaifetz of
the organization Advocates for Children. “It's going to have a huge effect on
all different populations. Sixty-seven percent of the kids who are English
language learners are Spanish speakers, but over 10 percent are Chinese
As many as 140 languages are spoken in city schools, but the concern is that
those who speak a language other than Spanish will remain in English as second
- Jennifer Rainville